An appellate court upheld the life sentence of Ross Ulbricht, while offering a scathing indictment of the US’s policy for harshly punishing drug offenses, Wired reported on Wednesday.
Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, founded the dark web drug marketplace Silk Road in 2011.
The website was shuttered after a lengthy federal investigation two years later, and Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2015.
In their opinion, Second Circuit appellate court judges questioned the “social utility” of harsh sentences for trafficking illicit substances, and even the “criminal prohibition” regarding the use and sale of drugs.
“It is very possible that, at some future point, we will come to regard these policies as tragic mistakes and adopt less punitive and more effective methods of reducing the incidence and costs of drug use,” the judges wrote.
“At this point in our history, however, the democratically-elected representatives of the people have opted for a policy of prohibition, backed by severe punishment,” the judges continued.
Ulbricht’s appeal rested on the behavior of the two federal agents who handled this case. Carl Mark Force, a former DEA agent, attempted to extort Ulbricht during the investigation, and Shaun Bridges, a former Secret Service agent, was convicted of stealing thousands of dollars of bitcoin from Silk Road, Wired reports.
In the opinion, the judges wrote that Ulbricht’s lawyers did not prove that the the agents’ “corrupt behavior” was “exculpatory.”